Information on Mouse-ear Hawkweed

Common Name: Mouse-ear Hawkweed
Scientific Name: Pilosella officinarum
Irish Name: Searbh na muc
Family Group: Asteraceae
Distribution: View Map (Courtesy of the BSBI)
Flowering Period


Click for list of all flowering by month
Mouse-ear Hawkweed is not easily confused with other wild plants on this web site.


This perennial Hawkweed is best identified for its lovely downy, spatulate leaves.  All borne in a basal rosette, the stems and the untoothed leaves are green and hairy above with soft, white, shaggy down below.  Rising from the centre of the rosette is the leafless plant stem bearing a solitary, lemon yellow flowerhead (20-30mm across).  This flowerhead is comprised of numerous ray florets, the back of the outer rays often being striped red.  This wildflower blooms from May to October and grows widely in dry grassy places, on old stone walls, sand dunes and waste ground.  It puts out creeping runners and forms mats, the runners decaying after the new daughter plant is established.  It also produces fruit attached to a pappus. This is a native plant which belongs to the family Asteraceae.  

My earliest record of this plant is in 1979 above Sorrento Bay, Co Dublin and I photographed it in the Burren, Co Clare in 2007. 

If you are satisfied you have correctly identified this plant, please submit your sighting to the National Biodiversity Data Centre

Hawkweed, Mouse-ear
Hawkweed, Mouse-ear

There are many subspecies of Hawkweeds growing here and they are difficult wildflowers to name.  They set seed without pollination so retain their own characteristics but even so, given that there are dozens of them, identification is a job best left to the experts.  Mouse-ear Hawkweed is the only one of the Hawkweeds which a mere amateur has any chance of identifying and it also has several subspecies.  

Herbalist and Astronomer, Nicholas Culpeper claimed that 'The juice of it in wine helps digestion, dispels wind, hinders crudities abiding in the stomach; it is good against the biting of venomous serpents, if the herb be applied to the place, and is good against all other poisons. A scruple of the dried root given in wine and vinegar is profitable for dropsy.'

Today, Hawkweed is used in sunscreen lotions and as an antibiotic in the treatment of brucellosis.